The Ashland Planning and Zoning Commission denied approval for its second multi-family housing development is two months on Tuesday evening.
Schooler Construction and C.L. Richardson Company were seeking a change of zoning for a vacant lot on Liberty Lane just east of the Middleton Crossing housing edition. The lot is currently zoned Commercial, the proposed change would have enabled Schooler to purchase the property from Richardson and build six duplexes along a cup-de-sac street.
Two aldermen spoke out against the proposed zoning change. Alderman Jesse Bronson said that the property needed to remain zoned commercial.
“The people who bought homes in Middleton Crossing knew that would be a commercial property, and it should stay that way. The city needs more sales tax and property could bring new sales tax dollars to Ashland.”
Alderman Danny Clay, who sits on the P&Z board, asked Schooler is something better could be built there.
“I keep seeing builders come in and want to build a duplex, get their money and leave,” Clay said. “Have you thought about something nicer, a gate community or patio homes there?”
Schooler told Clay that a higher-priced “gated community” would not likely work as the property backs up to the City’s maintenance shed.
Property owner C.L Richardson told P&Z members that sense MoDot blocked the crossover at Liberty Lane, there is very little chance of commercial development in that spot to bring tax dollars to the community.
Seven residents of Middleton Crossing neighborhood spoke out against the development, citing multiple disadvantages to duplexes in the area:
• Justin Wobbe noted that property values throughout the neighborhood, and thereby all of Ashland, would go down if duplexes were built in that spot. Wobbe also noted it might bring a less desirable type of family to Ashland.
“We could have more law enforcement problems and we already have kids (from Liberty Lane duplexes) playing in the field. You would probably have more break-ins. It appears all we are trying to do is add people into town without property tax and hurting the schools,” Wobbe said.
Schooler told the Journal after the meeting that adding six duplexes would certainly add property tax to the school district – more than the assessed valuation of a vacant lot.
• “When do you ever see multi-family housing adding value to the homes around it?” resident Sandy Harris asked the commission.
• Resident Mike Fulca told P&Z members the development would bring more parking problems to the area. “It’s not fair to those of us who have bought homes and have settled in the area,” Fulca noted.
Schooler told P&Z they would build quality homes with two-car garages, hopefully not adding to the Liberty Lane parking problem.
Builder Mike McCubbin spoke in favor of the development.
“It exactly fits the area on Liberty Lane,” McCubbin said. “We had duplexes there before they built the homes in Middleton and there are duplexes and apartments all up and down Liberty Lane now. This works and fits better than a commercial development.”
After the 40-minute public hearing, P&Z went into regular session and voted unanimously to deny the zoning change. Commissioners Ernie Wren, Jeff Sapp, James Branson and Brad Williamson denied the request, with two members absent.
It was the second time in two meetings P&Z had denied a multi-family housing development. In May, the commission blocked McCubbin’s efforts to build apartments on the north side of the city’s maintenance shed.
After the meeting, Wren denied that the Commission was biased against low-income or rental property being built in Ashland.
“I think that we have seen residents of a neighborhood voice their disagreement and we took that into account,” Wren said. “We looked at how it would negatively affect a greater number of people than it would serve and voted accordingly.”